Are you discouraged by the “no pain, no gain” philosophy of exercise? Feel like you don’t have the time, let alone the energy, to add a rigorous exercise regime to your busy everyday life? Well, there’s good news: it turns out that simple, regular walking may provide all the mental and physical health benefits you need. Walking has been proven to lower “bad” cholesterol, raise “good” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, manage weight, and improve mood and energy. And what’s more, walking is convenient and cheap – you don’t need a gym membership or any fancy equipment. Recent studies examined the health benefits of walking and suggest that companies offering workplace walking programs may help employees incorporate walking into their daily routines.
Unsurprisingly, the research finds that people were more likely to walk to work in smaller cities and compact urban areas than in larger suburban areas. Participants who reported having “stressful lives” were also less likely to walk to work. While women walked less overall, they were more likely to walk to work than men. Participants in the normal weight range walked the most, with this extra physical activity likely being partially responsible for maintaining their weight.
Workplace walking programs have been popping up with more frequency over the last decade as employers recognize that walking may offer potential health benefits to employees and reduced healthcare costs to them. These programs give employees the tools they need to easily integrate walking into their daily routine. Some programs offer specially designed materials, such as pedometers and online tools that guide people in creating personalized walking and nutrition programs. These tools that help employees set personal walking benchmarks and track progress are effective in motivating participants to maintain daily walking regimes.
If you live within a mile of your workplace, you really have no excuse. Just get those sneakers on and go. But those of us who live miles away from work should consider other ways to add walking into our daily lives. Here are some ideas:
1. Walk to a public transit stop and take public transportation to work. Get off the bus before your destination (you may even save time this way).
2. For shorter errands that are close by, walk rather then drive.
3. Always use the stairs rather than the elevator when possible.
4. Don’t stress out about getting the closest parking spot. Take the farthest one and get some exercise.
5. Take a walk during your lunch break.
6. Keep your walking shoes handy. Leave a pair at your office for quick 10-minute stress-reducing walks.
7. Plan a walking meeting with co-workers.
8. Get a dog. Dog owners walk more, because Fido needs the exercise!
Twenty minutes of moderately paced walking every day may not turn you into Lance Armstrong, but it will make a real impact on your cardiovascular health.